Thursday, June 29, 2023

The Historical Art of Weaving—Fabric and Story


For eons writers have used WEAVING as a metaphor for crafting fiction. We often speak of weaving plot and character into a perfect story. Sometimes we speak of the separate acts of weaving a character’s individual history and personality into a three-dimensional human being, or of threading the strings of a plot into complex layers that gradually are sorted out by the reader. As a whole, the resulting fabric creates a believable story world.

Weaving fiction—the art of stretching the warp of plot only to the degree we are able to weft the humanity of character into it—is an imagery we can’t seem to get around, even if the symbolism begins to sound trite. To speak of weaving a story is probably still the most evocative way to describe novel writing, similar to when we say we are spinning a tale.

Image, courtesy of wallpaper from

I was thinking about all this when I got curious about the history of weaving itself. It’s an art as old as time. Because material doesn’t hold well through the centuries without deteriorating, ancient artifacts of weaving are few and far between, and those that do still exist don’t date back as far as we’d like to go. The most ancient fragments have been found in Egyptian tombs, thanks to the dry, sandy climate. Similarly, very fine linen examples have been uncovered by archeologists in Peru. Indians and Peruvians created the first cotton fabrics, while Mesopotamia produced wool fabrics. Some historians credit the real trailblazing in weaving to the Chinese, as they were the first known producers of silk.

Personally, I believe weaving in its many forms goes back much further. Probably clear back to Adam and Eve when God taught them to weave baskets in which to carry produce. Did they look at a bird’s nest and get the idea? Who knows. Maybe God inspired them in some other way or simply showed them how while they were still living in the Garden of Eden.

We see an abundance of weaving going on in Scripture. In Judges 16: 13-14, “Delilah then said to Samson, ‘All this time you have been making a fool of me and lying to me. Tell me how you can be tied.’ He replied, ‘If you weave the seven braids of my head into the fabric on the loom and tighten it with the pin, I’ll become as weak as any other man.’ So while he was sleeping, Delilah took the seven braids of his head, wove them into the fabric and tightened it with the pin. Again she called to him, ‘Samson, the Philistines are upon you!’ He awoke from his sleep and pulled up the pin and the loom, with the fabric.”

Image by Ronald Sandino from Pixabay

During the building of the first temple in Israel during the 10th century BC, there is much speaking about weaving and the skilled artisans who performed it. Exodus 26: 1, 31: 1 “Make the tabernacle with ten curtains of finely twisted linen and blue, purple and scarlet yarn, with cherubim woven into them by a skilled worker. 31 “Make a curtain of blue, purple and scarlet yarn and finely twisted linen, with cherubim woven into it by a skilled worker.

Then in chapter 28:39 he continues in speaking of the garb of the temple priests: “Weave the tunic of fine linen and make the turban of fine linen. The sash is to be the work of an embroiderer.”

Even Job, referenced weaving when he spoke of God’s own work of knitting together our bones and sinews when he forms us.

Both history and Scripture teach us that weaving was a worthy skill for both its practical uses and as a respected art. Throughout the centuries, even looms themselves changed as processes for weaving were further developed. Looms were vertical for many centuries B.C. and used with a needle. It wasn’t until the Christian era that horizontal looms came into play. The loom as we know it today, equipped with heddles to raise and lower warp threads by means of pedals or levers, was first used in Europe in the 13th century.

Image by Vincent Ciro from Pixabay

The dawn of the industrial age brought even more updates to looms, making large-scale cloth production possible.

I have friends who know how to weave using a loom, and I have friends who know how to spin. Are you skilled at such an art, or have you tried it? As for me, I’ll stick to weaving stories.

Weaving on,


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Fannie is at home on the farm in Wisconsin. But while her brothers are overseas fighting the Germans, the Germans have come to her. 


  1. Thank you for posting today. I have never tried weaving or spinning, other than making those potholders from nylon strings like almost every child has done!

  2. Hi Naomi, I've tried knitting and crochet and I just can not do it! I'm sure weaving is out, too. I can embroider and sew on a sewing machine. This post was interesting and enlightening. Thanks~